As most of you know I'm passionate about Jesus, I'm passionate about truth, I'm passionate about love, I'm passionate about God's word, and I'm passionate about God's plan for sharing the truth, love, and word of Jesus through His body...the Church.
This morning I read an interesting article in Newsweek's online magazine about the cultural Christian shift from institutionalization to a more organic and biblical form of community life. In the article Gary Laderman, professor of American religious history at Emory University and author of 'Sacred Matters' stated, "What's going on is a kind of deinstitutionalization of religious life," when he was asked why American Christians have grown weary with the current ways of practicing their faith.
Though the article is interesting and agreeable on the point it aims to make, ( it expresses a major concern for the institutional tradition of the way we "do" church) it still fails to focus on the main issue in regards to the mass exodus of some 1,000,000 Christians per year leaving institutional churches (per the Barna Group), the lack of genuine transformation of individual Christians, and the total disunity within the "body of Christ" (The Church). That main issue is that Christians have grown tired of playing the part of the "American Christian", a part that is focused on keeping America "Christian", the using of the pulpit as an opportunity to press the political beliefs and religious interpretations of a few clergy on to the mass amounts of listeners while they care more about the appearance and marketability of their congregation than transformation and discipleship within the membership (don't tell me it's different, show me). Within this issue is that while the church preaches to the individual listener there is a lack of biblical community within the body as we have been taught like children to be seen and not heard for fear that the congregation speaking up is what would lead to disunity (shaking hands and giving your name before we get entertained is not community). Though Pastors have the best of intentions to keep things orderly, their hierarchical positions have deadened the Spirit of the congregation as very few manage to function, and their fears of disunity are strictly a fear that they may need to re-think the way their program currently works. In a nutshell, followers of Christ are tired of playing the part of Christian, following a select few and their views while the Headship of Jesus and the love and unity of believers is left in the dust.
It also needs to be said that meeting in a house doesn't make a Christian community any better than the one who meets in a church edifice. This is especially true if people are leaving the institution in order to meet together while still holding on to the un-biblical hierarchical structure and liturgy that bores the masses on Sunday's. I truly believe that the main reason for this move from institutional church life is due to a desire of the body to share in authentic worship within an all members functioning community with Christ as Head (see 1 Corinthians 14, Ephesians 5, and all through Acts). The desire doesn't come from the need to be known or "do" church better, but instead, due to the Holy Spirit which desires us to be a unified visible expression of the love and truth of Christ within local communities. While we currently have church buildings on every block from multiple denominations, God's desire to bring true unity within His body cannot co-exist with the current "sheep stealing" that goes on. Especially if these sheep are already part of the Kingdom of God through their relationship with Christ and know their Shepherd(John 10).
In these tough times, ones in which the faint of heart have a buffet of choices in which they can get their daily fears from, the Holy Spirit is moving in the hearts of Christians to usher in the Biblical Kingdom of God through the love, generosity, grace, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I do agree that a lack of institution is where God moves best as the Headship of Christ is allowed to be re-established as he supplants the "CEO Pastor" that currently runs the body in America (and the world). However, I'm also aware that some may disagree with my views on why the move to de-instituionalize the Church is happening and I want to be clear that my main desire is that we would aim in this New Year to re-hire Jesus back as the Head of his Church so that we may get the true answer of what he's doing.
May we all come together in love, regardless of our views on denominations (that includes you non-denomonationals too), politics, baptism, eschatology or any other view that gives us pride as opposed to humility. Let's aim to give Jesus his church back, regaining our understanding of who we are in Christ as well as our roles in His Church.
(For the whole Newsweek article, please click the Blog title entry)